July 27: Another literary hero and two months on the road as of today

Today I drove more winding backroads, crossing into New York state, until I reached a bridge over the Hudson River. My photos of it aren’t very good, but I tried…

Another state.  I think this is #19? 20?
Another state. I think this is #19? 20?
Over the Hudson River.
Over the Hudson River.
A view of the Hudson from the other side.
A view of the Hudson from the other side.

Then I wound down the eastern side of the river until I got tangled in some serious traffic, er, made it to Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, where Washington Irving built his house, and set the most famous of his short stories.

No, that so-ridiculous-it’s-fun (at least for the first couple of seasons) TV show of the same name isn’t filmed here. It’s actually filmed in South Carolina, but it is set here. And apparently there’s been a small Twilight-esque run on this place in the last few years because of it. Not to the extent that Forks, Washington, has been taken over, but enough that the lady who sold me my ticket to visit the house looked like she wanted to roll her eyes at me when I commented on it.

Irving was the first person in the United States to make his living writing fiction. He wrote a lot of other things, too, history and satire and so forth, but it was his fiction that made his name. His house was the second most visited home in the 19th century, after Mount Vernon.

It’s a pretty cottage (Irving’s word), described by our guide as a pastiche of many architectural styles, from Dutch to Spanish. The front door is all but encased in wisteria, ivy, and bad hair day (trumpet) vine, and it took an act of will for me to get through it [wry g]. I did remember that from my first visit here, in April, 1981, with my mother while I was visiting my parents during the year and a half they lived in Connecticut.

According to the plaque, this sycamore tree on the Sunnyside property was alive during the Revolutionary War.
According to the plaque, this sycamore tree on the Sunnyside property was alive during the Revolutionary War.
The front of Sunnyside, almost smothered with wisteria on the left and trumpet vine on the right.
The front of Sunnyside, almost smothered with wisteria on the left and trumpet vine on the right.
The back of Sunnyside, with the docent who took us through.
The back of Sunnyside, with the docent who took us through.
Believe it or not, this is Sunnyside's ice house.
Believe it or not, this is Sunnyside’s ice house.

It was fun to see the house again, though. It stayed in the Irving family (Washington Irving was a bachelor, and he left the house to his nieces) until the 1940s, over a hundred years after it was built, and it was purchased not long after that by the Rockefellers and preserved as a historic site, so it’s in much the same condition (and filled with much of the furniture) it was in when Irving died.

Anyway, I enjoyed it, as I always do this sort of thing. The last time I was here it snowed that night and knocked the power out at my parents’ house. Too bad we couldn’t split the difference between that visit and this one. The house itself isn’t air-conditioned. Thank goodness for thick stone walls. It could have been much worse inside than it was.

After I left Sunnyside, I headed for Danbury, Connecticut, and listee Irene, who offered me a bed for a couple of nights. Her parents hosted the listee curry party at Denvention in 2008, which was great fun, and we’ve corresponded off and on ever since. She has a nice place nestled on a hillside, and I hope she’s having as nice a time hosting me as I have being her guest.

Tomorrow I shall explore around Danbury (Irene has to work), and then on Friday I am headed for the Connecticut coast and Mystic Seaport. Beyond that, we’ll just have to see.